As Americans’ approval of the current Biden administration declines as they observe the proliferation of numerous issues, an increasing number of people are reconsidering their political vote in the upcoming 2024 elections. Even among Democrats, confidence in Vice President Kamala Harris has plummeted. Confidence in President Joe Biden has been eroding in the mainstream, and that of Vice President Kamala Harris has plummeted among Democrats.
New Jersey has traditionally been a liberal state. Since 1992, the state has been regarded as a Democratic stronghold, as it has supported the Democratic candidate in every presidential election. One municipality in New Jersey, however, has undergone a complete political reversal as a result of the trend to turn to the right for answers to current issues. In recent years, the number of municipal Democrats elected in traditionally Republican-leaning Morris County has increased, despite the GOP’s 20,115-voter registration advantage (136,399 Republicans to 119,289 Democrats and 141,209 unaffiliated voters).
Tuesday, the state’s elected officials in East Hanover, New Jersey, delivered a political thunderbolt by announcing that longtime Mayor Joseph Pannullo and the entire township council had changed their party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
As reported by Daily Record, Morris County Republican Committee Chairwoman Laura Ali stated that Panullo, council president Frank DeMaio, and fellow members Brian Brokaw, Carolyn Jandoli, and Michael Martorelli had joined the GOP “after months of good conversations.”
Pannullo, who’s represented the town of 11,000 people since 2007, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. He didn’t cite a specific factor motivating the switch in the Republican Committee statement. But, he added: “Municipal leaders have a responsibility to best represent their constituents, and it is our belief this change of party is in the best interest of the community. As the nastiness, rhetoric and social media vitriol of national politics continues to infiltrate local governance, we collectively determined this was the best course of action to keep the focus on local issues impacting our community.”
Ali, the county chairwoman, stated that Republicans were “ecstatic” about the transition in East Hanover.
“The entire Republican Party in Morris County is welcoming Mayor Pannullo and East Hanover’s four council members to our family with open arms and great excitement!” she said. “East Hanover is an exceptionally run town with great leadership. It is clear we share the same values as Mayor Panullo and his Council and we are so excited to have them be part of our Republican family.”
According to state records, Donald Trump won decisively in East Hanover in 2020, capturing 66% of the vote. In his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill in the 11th Congressional District, Republican Paul DeGroot won the municipality with 68% of the vote in 2017. Sherrill won the election with 57% of the vote, including 53% in Morris County.
Democrats are disadvantaged, but not eliminated. New Jersey communities including Morris Township, Mendham Township, and Boonton are holding on. On Tuesday, a Republican from Mendham Township withdrew a lawsuit challenging the election results from last November, allowing Democrats to gain a second seat on the governing committee of the erstwhile Republican bastion.
The Democratic Party chair refuses to accept the turn of the tide in spite of the recent results. “Of course, I am disappointed,” Morris County’s Democratic chairwoman, Amalia Duarte, said in an emailed statement. “But, the real story is that Morris County is rapidly trending more Democratic, as we saw in the last election cycle. We won new municipal seats, flipped Morris Township to entirely Democratic and all of our incumbents were re-elected, including in East Hanover.”
The party transition was first reported by the political news website of the New Jersey Globe.
In the GOP statement, Pannullo said his priorities would remain the same: “Combating the overburdening and unrealistic fair-share housing mandates, keeping taxes stable, enhancing our parks and investing in public safety needs to be our local priorities. Every decision my administration makes is about putting East Hanover first, this is no different.”
In November, Pannullo, DeMaio, and Martorelli are up for re-election. Notably, this year’s redistricting shifted East Hanover from the Democrat-controlled 27th to the Republican-represented 26th legislative district. State Assemblyman Brian Bergen, who represents the 26th district, remarked that the Morris County Republican party “has incredible momentum, and this is a great indication of our progress.”
“Mayor Pannullo and his entire council are a great team, and we are glad to have them join us,” Bergen said. “2023 will be a big year and this is just the beginning.”
The Daily Record noted:
The Democrats’ Duarte, however, argued that her party has enjoyed a net gain in Morris County compared to past years, including Democratic representation from Sherrill in Congress for a majority of the county’s municipalities. “If you look back 20 years ago, Democrats made up only 15% of registered voters in Morris County and Republicans were at 32%,” she said. “Now, Morris County is 30% Democrat, and Republicans are at 34%. This trend is just going to continue; they are stagnant. Democrats in Morris County have momentum.”